In her opinion:
For some reason, the foodie gods have aligned my wedding anniversary and Summerlicious so that they occur in the same time frame. This means that we can have two or three anniversary dinners for the price of one! Since we love food this is the best anniversary gift ever!
This year we decided on Canoe and Scarpetta to celebrate our 14th anniversary! Scarpetta is a new choice for us. But this wasn't our first time at Canoe, having been quite a few times now. In fact, we had celebrated our 12th there and it had been unforgettable, so we were hoping for the same. Well, Chef Horne far exceeded our expectations.
We arrived 20 minutes ahead of dinner service, so we sat at the bar looking down on Toronto and enjoying a pre-dinner drink. I had my favourite Oliver and Bonacini staple...a glass of Biff's Juicy Red (read our review here). What can I say...it's my favourite wine of the moment. It was perfect. The bar was filled with people waiting for their tables just like us. At exactly 5:00 pm, we were shown to our table for two next to the kitchen. This is a great spot to watch the action in the kitchen while enjoying your meal.
We were asked if we wanted still or sparkling Q water. At $2.50 per person this is the best bargain out there! We were then given some lovely red fife bread and a beautiful chickpea spread.
For my starter, I ordered the "Yarmouth lobster and cod mousse". This is described on the Summerlicious menu as being served with "lemon emulsion, Cookstown radish, capers and watercress".
This was outstanding. The mousse was served with toasted baguette which I feel is necessary to enjoying a good mousse. There was also preserved lemon on the plate which provided an incredible sweetness to the overall dish. The capers and lemon emulsion provided the right amount of tartness. This was so so good. I truly could eat this every single day and never get sick of it. Absolutely delicious.
For my main, I picked the "Wellington County Beef" which is served with "Portobello mushroom pickles and creamy Alliston spuds".
The meat, a delicious tenderloin, was cooked a perfect medium. There was carrots and green beans on the plate to accompany the potatoes, prepared in two ways - as creamy mash and potato chips. As well, there was a delicious braised beef under the sliced tenderloin which had the most incredible flavour. It was served with a jus. This whole dish was excellent. A truly refined meat and potato dish which evoked your senses.
For dessert, I choose the "B.C. Cherry Clafoutis". It was served with "toasted almond cream and rum raisin ice cream".
The kitchen had written "Happy Anniversary" on our dessert plates...a great touch and Chef Horne sent out a dessert wine to accompany each of our respective desserts. He sent Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery's Ratafia with my dessert. This was a brandy like wine which was not to sweet and had flavours of hazelnut, creme brulee and caramel. However, I switched with Edgar's dessert wine which was the 13th Street Winery's 13 Below Zero Riesling. Or otherwise known as nectar from the gods...amazingly good!
The whole meal was out of this world. It exceeded all of my previous Canoe experiences and I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Chef Horne came to see us after our meal and talked food and restaurants with us. We were given two little boxes of Soma Chocolates as an anniversary gift. Great services, great meal and overall, great experience.
In his opinion:
Contrary to most of Toronto's food critics' opinions, my favourite restaurant in Toronto and perhaps in Canada is actually Auberge du Pommiers, and not the critically acclaimed Canoe. Perhaps it's my unwavering love for French food or the fact that my many visits to Auberge have all been superb. We have had a few "ok" experiences at Canoe through the years, but something definitely took a turn for the better a couple of years ago.
We were then treated exceptionally well through exceptional service, amazingly crafted food and the collaboration of flavours and dishes that is expected from such a high rated establishment. The next experience after that was equally impressive and memorable, only to fall short on the service end of things, but I suppose sometimes even servers have "off" days.
Our return to Canoe on this rainy Sunday afternoon, approximately 6 months after the last experience was awaited with much anticipation, expecting the same great food and an improvement on the service of the last sitting.
While waiting for our table, we sat at the bar facing the lake with Canoe's famous views, Bacardi and Coke in hand, gazing at the beauty of the city. Despite a cloudy rainy day, the views from the 54th floor of the TD tower never cease to impress me, even after many visits.
With the precision of a Swiss masterpiece, the maitre'd came to show us to our table at 5 PM on the dot. We were seated near the kitchen, only a table away from where we had our most memorable Canoe experience only 2 years ago.
Having studied the menu in advance, I still found myself indecisive about my selections, but only because everything seem to be calling my name. I finally made my decisions and relayed them to a very attentive and well humoured waiter named Ian. He brought us our sparkling water, as another server brought us some red fife bread and a delicious chickpea spread to go along with it.
The appetizer arrived and the presentation was flawless. Chilled summer sweet pea soup with wild flower creme fraiche and dungeness crab. The green radiant colour in the centre of the plate was only a preview to the outstanding tastes that awaited.
Served almost lukewarm, the pea soup was delicious with balanced flavours that were offset by the creme fraiche and the dots of sour cream. The crab was the perfect texture contrast to the smooth, creamy soup and complemented it very well.
For entree, I ordered the Willowgrove Hill pork chop, served with Guelph navy beans, celery root puree and lavender apricot compote. I'm not one to be ever at a loss for words but as I tasted my few first bites of this dish, all I could say was WOW.
Besides being a very generous portion and one of the best pork chops I have ever had, everything on the plate somehow majestically worked together extremely well. The glaze with hints of mustard, rosemary and thyme were a perfect pairing for the tender, juicy chop and complimented it perfectly. The navy beans with corn provided the crunchy contrast in texture to the velvety pork.
For dessert I opted for the strawberry panna cotta with lychee ginger comsume and Thai basil sorbet. The basil sorbet was extremely delicious and refreshing and worked well with the gelatin smoothness of the panna cotta. The kitchen staff had written "Happy Anniversary" on both our dessert plates, a gesture I found to be quite kind and very appreciated.
To top this amazing culinary night, we were treated to some Canadian dessert wine (see above for descriptions), and an unexpected visit from Chef John Horne himself. He was so kind to ask about our experience, talk food and restaurants and even took time to praise one of his mentors, Chef Jason Bangerter, another chef I idolize.
It isn't a coincidence that our last few amazing visits to Canoe coincide with the collaboration between Executive Chef Anthony Walsh and Chef Horne's appointment to chef de cuisine. They continue to elevate the standards of this benchmark of Canadian cuisine. I'm unsure if Canoe will ever de-throne Auberge as my favourite restaurant in Toronto, but Chef Horne is surely making one hell of a case for it.
The Good: Impeccable service with attention to every detail meets culinary genius. Canoe is the only real homage to true Canadian food in my opinion. They validate parking as well (bonus).
The Bad: I wish I could find something to pick on but (un)fortunately this time around, our visit to Canoe was flawless.
The Verdict: Experiences like this one is the very reason I love blogging about food and restaurants. When the calibre and reputation of a restaurant perfectly aligns with the service and food experienced in any given night, that is the essence of a great dining experience.
I give it 4 1/2 Olives out of 5 as rating.